Thursday, May 12, 2005



Leonard Pitts
Contra Costa Times

Let's say you join the Army.You go through basic training and are sent to Iraq. One day, your unit comes under fire. Everybody shoots back except you. When your commanding officer demands to know why, you explain that as a Christian, you have moral objections to killing people.

I'd wager most of us would think you a couple companies short of a full battalion. If you agree, then you're going to love what's happening with your local pharmacist.

Well, maybe not. Maybe your pharmacist isn't one of those who are refusing to fill prescriptions on religious grounds, imposing their moral decisions on your medical decisions. Maybe yours isn't one of the crazy ones. If so, count your blessings. Some of your fellow Americans are less fortunate.

I give you the state of Illinois. On the first of this month, Gov. Rod Blagojevich felt compelled to issue an emergency rule requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for the so-called morning-after pill that works by preventing ovulation but can also block fertilization and keep already-fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. He acted after an Illinois pharmacist refused to provide the pills to two women.

This week, Blagojevich moved to make the rule permanent.

But this isn't just Illinois' headache. Though no one seems to have hard numbers, published reports suggest a widespread pattern of so-called Christian pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions with which they disagree. And a chilling report last month in the Washington Post suggests that some have gone even further. It told of pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth-control pills to unmarried women, of those who will not sell contraceptives and of those who won't fill morning-after prescriptions, but who hold the prescriptions hostage, refusing to return them to customers, knowing time is of the essence because the pill is less effective if taken too long after intercourse.

As maddening as all that is, what's more galling is that laws have been passed in four states -- and are under consideration in 12 others -- that legitimize this lunacy, allowing pharmacists with moral objections to refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions.

People have an absolute right -- indeed, an absolute duty -- to oppose abortion if conscience so dictates. They have the right to pen letters to the editor, to support politicians who share their views, to demonstrate and agitate.

But no one has the right to refuse to perform some foreseeable aspect of their job.

Just as the soldier in the scenario should have known that shooting people might be part of his day's work, so should a candidate for a pharmacy job understand that she might have to hand out contraceptive pills and devices. She should either resolve to mind her own business or keep searching the want ads.

I mean, what's next? Can the clerk at Blockbuster refuse to rent R-rated movies because he objects to explicit language? Can the vegan who works at McDonald's refuse to take orders for Big Macs? Tobacco kills 440,000 Americans a year. If I work at 7-Eleven, can I refuse to sell Marlboros?

Of course not. So by what right do these activist pharmacists get to impose their morals on the rest of us? And by what logic do lawmakers legitimize their ability do so?

There's no moral puzzler here, folks. In fact, the solution is real simple. You don't like what the job requires? Fine. Get another job.


Blogger Tom Harper said...

These medieval pharmacists are just too ridiculous for words. Why should pharmacists get to keep their jobs and still follow their consciences? Everyone else has to make the same choices in life, why not pharmacists? If your job conflicts with your moral beliefs, either swallow your pride and do your job, or quit your job and become a minister.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Yes. I agree with your comment, thhofpa22! "Medieval" is almost too good a word.

11:09 AM  

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